So… to review… for Liverpool to qualify for the Champions League round of sixteen one of the following scenarios needs to occur:
1.) Liverpool beat Debrecen AND Lyon beat Fiorentina AND Liverpool beat Fiorentina.
2.) Liverpool beat Debrecen AND Lyon draw with Fiorentina AND Liverpool beat Fiorentina by at least three goals.
3.) Liverpool beat Debrecen AND Fiorentina’s players are abducted by space aliens and replaced with cyborg footballers (this invokes an ancient Uefa rule that states any match influenced by extra-terrestrial involvement is automatically forfeit – see: Wolves v. Martians, 1972).
Curse you, Lisandro Lopez, for putting us in this position with your (gorgeous) late strike.
Of course going into the match I had an uneasy feeling. After all, Voronin was starting again. And since Pepe Reina is more likely to take a shot on goal, this usually doesn’t bode well for Liverpool.
But – and I hesitate to say this (in fact I’ll check my temperature after finishing this sentence just to make sure I’m not running a fever or a black plague or anything) – Voronin actually looked good to me in the opening minutes. My two thoughts were:
– Maybe he just needs to play the continental matches, like the year Dirk Kuyt couldn’t score in England but tore it up in the Champions League. And…
– Oh God, what if Voronin actually scores? I think I’ll be more mad at him if he comes up good. I mean I’ll take the goal but still… when one bemoans a player every week and then he scores the clutch goal in a teetering Champions League campaign, it leaves one feeling stupid.
Of course Voronin is too awful to let me down (so to speak) on that last point. Liverpool’s best looking chance in the first half came when Mascherano put Voronin in on goal, one-on-one with Hugo Lloris. At first I thought it was Torres on the ball. I blame the grainy TV feed (when are we going to get all the matches in high-def already?) and the positioning made the player look like someone with pace. Then I saw the flutter of the ponytail. It was Voronin. Still. One-on-one. All those goals scored in the Bundesliga. There was no way he was going to fu… and he kicked it straight at the keeper. Did they ban all goalkeepers in the Bundesliga last season and nobody told me?
The first half ended and we consoled ourselves knowing we had more chances than Lyon. Along with Voronin’s “attempt”, Dirk Kuyt took a cheeky first-time lob on target (it would have been one of the best goals of the campaign if Lloris hadn’t managed to get a hand to it) and Torres took a shot in traffic but couldn’t get it off quite right.
In the second half things looked up when Rafa took Voronin off and put Babel on.
Not that Babel’s lived up to potential that much more than the Ukranian but he does shoot on goal, he does have pace, and this was the perfect scenario for him: a match Liverpool all but need to win and a chance to prove his worth after a dismal start to the season.
Sure enough, Babel got his chance in the 83rd minute. A screaming shot from distance. It rattled into the back of the net and we went mad. It almost a carbon copy of his late goal against Chelsea in the Champions League two years ago. Unbelievable. Seven minutes to go and we’d been defending well. It looked like a win. A much needed win.
Although, I should have mentioned the fright we got before Babel’s goal.
On 79 minutes Lisandro Lopez streaked in, turned two of our defenders, gave himself a clear look on goal and took a ballsy shot. He curled it wide but what a signal of intent. A fraction of a second more to set himself and that shot is on target and likely going in.
So when Lisandro ran onto the bouncing ball in the 90th and none of the Liverpool defenders seemed to know where he or the ball was going – when he burst into space, I just knew he was going to make us pay. It was that inevitability we see going in our direction when Torres carves out a decent swath for himself in sight of goal. Only this time it was an opposition player and two points hanging timidly in the air. And everything came crashing down as Lisandro’s shot sailed home. It was breathtaking. It was devastating.
So all I ask (in case the space aliens don’t show up in time) is that Lisandro carves out a couple chances like that against Fiorentina. Liverpool need the planets to align if we’re to survive the group stage. But a couple Argentine wonder goals toward a Lyon win would help put us back in sight and then we’d only be in need of a couple miracles of our own. That’s not too much to ask.